Dr Kiran Keshwara and Dr Simon Parsons, dentolegal consultants at Dental Protection, look at how we can create a dentolegally safe transition for ourselves when leaving a practice, whether it be to a new job, retirement or motherhood. So what might some of these considerations be?
We are obliged as registered health professionals to let the Dental Board know of any significant change to our principal place of practice or residential/postal address. You can update your details by downloading a Request for change of personal details form (CHPD-00).
Doing this in a timely manner will help ensure you receive your annual renewal or registration, as well as enable the Board to contact you should there be a notification made against you by a patient or another practitioner. This is particularly important where you have previously instructed the Board to send registration renewals to the practice, as you may not otherwise receive them.
For some, leaving a practice is also an occasion where one’s career might be venturing along new lines. This may mean you may no longer be practising clinical dentistry but may still want to maintain some form of professional registration. It is possible to change your status from practising to non-practising if appropriate to do so, by logging into your AHPRA account online.
Recency of practice
If discontinuing one’s clinical practice temporarily or even permanently, it is important to be aware of the Dental Board’s recency of practice requirements. Generally, this means that if you are not in clinical practice for a period of five years or more, you will need to satisfy the Board that you are fit to practise dentistry before being able to resume practice. This period is determined based on the declaration made when you renew your annual registration and is audited.
Careful consideration may need to be given to extended absences from work if this may result in needing to reapply for registration. Sometimes one’s circumstances may change and it may prove necessary to return to work for financial or other reasons. Being mindful of recency of practice requirements may help avoid difficulties should you want to resume work after an extended absence.
Professional indemnity insurance
It is wise to advise Dental Protection of a change in your clinical practice so that we, too, may forward annual renewals to you. We are aware of members who have allowed their indemnity to lapse while having remembered to renew their AHPRA registration. Members should be aware that the failure to hold active professional indemnity insurance while registered as a practitioner is a breach of the registration standards and can incur penalties.
If you are changing the nature of your clinical practice and performing different clinical services, or varying your overall clinical hours, you may need to change your insurance category. Please remember to call Membership Services on 1800 444 542 to enquire about what the best category might be for your needs.
Members who are retiring or going on extended leave (for example, maternity leave) should similarly contact us to determine if new indemnity arrangements need to be made. Members currently have access to run-off cover in the event of retirement, ensuring that they are covered for claims made by patients about their care after they have ceased practice. This is prudent to have in place should a claim be made against you while you would otherwise be uninsured. Contact Membership Services to enquire how to make these arrangements.
Cancel or amend third party arrangements
Leaving a practice can prove to be a busy time in one’s life and it is easy to get caught up in the activities of a new place of work and forget about the past. However, it is generally recommended that members cancel Medicare provider numbers at past places of employment so that future claims cannot be made using those details. This minimises the risk of unauthorised, fraudulent activity using one’s provider details by practice staff or other entities.
Where other agreements are in place, such as preferred provider agreements, supplier arrangements (eg preferential pricing from suppliers), local study club membership and the like, you may need to contact these organisations to inform them about your change in circumstances.
Remember, too, to have your details removed from practice websites and stationery, otherwise it is likely your patients will search for you online and be directed to your previous workplace, or be of the opinion that you are still working at the premises.
Leave a clean slate
Some members leave a practice on excellent terms, while for many others a move is the result of profound disillusionment or dissatisfaction with one’s workplace. No matter what the reason for leaving a practice, it is important to wrap up as many loose ends as possible. If you have one or more disgruntled patients, try to sort out their issues before you leave. Similarly, in cases of interpersonal conflict with other staff, see if it might be possible to bury the hatchet.
Attending to these areas of concern before you leave will mean that there’s much less likelihood of having to deal with patient complaints and claims after you have left a practice, and may reduce your risk of vexatious or critical remarks from staff at the practice in your absence.
Leaving a practice on reasonably good terms may also allow you to obtain a favourable reference that could prove useful as you seek alternative career opportunities.
Return practice property and collect your own
Dental Protection are aware of cases where members have had their personal property seized by previous employers or been denied access to retrieve such items during normal hours. We recommend you remember to collect all belongings on or before your final day of employment at a practice. Equally, you should remember to return keys, uniforms or other items that may reasonably be considered the property of the practice.
Print a transactions history from practice management software
Most software allows you to print a statement of your billings for a specified period. To reduce the risk of financial disputes over money owing to you and the practice, it can be wise to print out the past few months’ transactions so that you can monitor whether you are paid for the treatment you have performed. To ensure transparency, we would suggest you do this with the practice manager in attendance, so that it is not construed as you attempting to steal patient lists or other confidential practice information. If it is your responsibility to do so, try to pay laboratory bills before your last day so that these may be reconciled during the calculation of your final pay.
Leave a forwarding address
As always, it is wise to keep lines of communication open. Members should consider leaving a forwarding address and/or professional email address for future correspondence with a practice. This will allow group certificates, invitations, gifts or other items to be forwarded to you over time. Leaving your mobile phone details will allow the practice to reach you should there be a problem with a patient of yours.
Finally, enjoy greener pastures
Starting in a new role can be exciting, as can entering retirement or pursuing specialist qualifications. With any change comes mixed feelings and it can take time to settle into new professional arrangements, whatever they might be. Often it can be helpful to set oneself some goals in the new role. What do you hope to learn? What do you need to earn? In what areas do you want to grow and what are you willing to delete (if anything) from your clinical practice of dentistry?
Being clear about issues such as these can make the pursuit of your next career change exciting and more rewarding! Please contact us if you require further support or advice.
You can also listen to our podcast series for further guidance and advice.